We like to explore Hanoi and the surrounding villages, especially now that we have 2 motorbikes. Yes, Doug bought a used bike and I rent one. A quick jaunt around town and the breeze can lower your temperature faster than you can say whenthehellwillmypersonalthermostatworkagainmaybeweshouldmovetoiceland.

It’s hot. Hote. Heh.

Recently we signed up for a guided ride as a fundraiser for a local organization that helps foster young girls, called Blossom House, part of Humanitarian Services For Children in Vietnam. It’s a good cause, and we would be escorted to places we might not find on our own. We took off with 20 others, and within 10 minutes, Doug and I were on our own, separated from the group. It’s funny; months before we moved to Vietnam I had a recurring dream. It stemmed from reading about the traffic here, that you enter the stream of motorbikes and swim along like a school of fish; these dreams always devolved to being trapped in the flow, getting parted from each other and not being able to stop or find each other for years (YEARS) because we were unable to exit the flow.

Can you say déjà vu?

We were headed down the highway in a giant glob of motorbikes and cars, aiming for the Nhật Tân Bridge, fondly called the New Bridge because it was finished 2 years ago and links Hanoi to the airport. We’ve never driven motorbikes onto this bridge before.

Turns out the onramp from the road we were on is a left turn, not a right turn. I got stuck in the right side of the mob and couldn’t maneuver over to the left. Swimming. There was a left-turn light for the onramp to the bridge (yay!) but alas, no way to get to it from the right side without cutting across 3 packed lanes of swift-moving traffic which never had to stop because that part of the road continues straight through. I finally did it (oh boy you should’ve heard the horns honking at me) and there was Doug waiting on the bridge for me. Swoon.

The Nhật Tân Bridge feels enormous.

This bridge is 2.5 miles long. After a thrilling, noisy ride across, we realized we had no idea where to turn, and no one was in sight from the group.

Luckily, we had a general idea of where we would rendezvous for lunch, so we spent the morning exploring the villages and their temples along the one-lane rural road. The road is similar to Seattle’s Burke Gilman bike trail except with cows, water buffalo, chickens and goats meandering along the way.

A few hours later, we found the Lại Đà Temple and waited for the group to appear. An enormous wedding surrounded it so the wait was fun. It’s impolite here to take people-photos without their permission, so you’ll have to believe us when we say it was loud, lively and beautifully colorful.

The Lại Đà Temple is in the center of the village.

Carved dragons adorn each corner.  The corners are up-turned to deflect evil spirits.


The back door to one of the buildings in the Pagoda complex.


The group finally arrived and we all enjoyed this delicious vegetarian lunch at the temple, prepared by the buddhist nuns and monks. Tempura seaweed-wrapped mushrooms, tofu spring rolls (fried and fresh), young bamboo shoot soup, noodle salads, mung bean rice, and lots more. My favorite condiment was a thinly sliced root, fried and spiced, that looked like beef jerky, to sprinkle on everything.

Our lunch sampler.


Afterwards we all cleaned up and went our separate ways. Our goal of getting out and exploring was a success.

We passed this mural project, about a mile from our house, on the railway wall. This wall surrounds portions of the Old Quarter.  The artist is holding a paper drawing as her painting guide.

Mural painting on the elevated train track wall.


Coffee shop sunset, with a fishing pole attached to the railing.


A simple dinner of fried rice, caramelized pork and garlic sautéed  water spinach at neighboring Mậu Dịch.


  1. Cindy Johnson

    I love your photos and blog. Maybe you should work for Rick Steves or Road Scolars helping people explore Vietnam. It is so beautiful and I appreciate your sharing with us your experiences and thoughts.
    Happy Thanksgiving.
    🍁 🦃

    • Beth

      Aw shucks, thanks, Cindy. Mostly it’s a way for us to remember things, and to perhaps lure people over to visit! [hint] Happy Thanksgiving to you, too. We’re celebrating with a big meal with friends here. There’s an Italian butcher that cooks turkeys and delivers. Solves the ‘no oven’ dilemma. xo

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